Friday, December 27, 2019

"The Door Swung Further Open Until a Man Lurched Out Sideways"

OUR NEXT NARRATIVE (epistolary in form) is a slippery item indeed; let Ellery Queen (the editor) elucidate:

   ". . . here is another story by Mr. [Lawrence] Blochman — this time an original about Marshall T. Custer, demon detective-story writer and a 
devil of a deducer with clue and corpse — and again the author, with 
malice aforethought, has scattered errors throughout the text. There 
are eighteen intentional mistakes, with as wide a range of subject 
matter as in Mr. Blochman's earlier story ['The Girl with the Burgundy 

Definitely a challenge to the reader, but to relieve your anxiety editor Queen does offer in his introduction three possible approaches to reading the story. Good luck!

"The Man with the Blue Ears."
By Lawrence G. Blochman (1900-75).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1954.

Reprinted in EQMM (U.K.), November 1954, and EQMM (Australia), January 1955.
Short story (14 pages; errors list, 2 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "Both ears were blue right down to the lobes . . ."

Spoofing the public has its perils—murder, for instance . . .

Major characters:
~ Betty Morningstar:

  "I think somebody is going to murder my husband, and that they'll blame me."
~ George Aladdin:
  "Wire coat-hangers jangled as he stared at me with dead eyes."
~ Marshall T. Custer:

  "Now you're beginning to look like a story-book shamus, Custer. What hit you? 
A beer truck?"
~ Irving Jeffries:
  "Where's Annabel?"
~ Annabel:

  "I did come early. But George wasn't here so I went out for an ice cream soda 
with Mr. Newsom."
~ Frank Newsom:
  "Blue ears! Oh, lord! Blue ears!"
~ Kenneth Kilkenny, detective first grade:
  "Tuck that babe under your arm, shut yourself in the kitchenette, and scramble 

a few clues. Goodbye now."


~ "Central Casting":

   "In popular usage the term 'central casting' has come to denote an unspecified source of stereotypical types for film or television, as in a character being 'straight out of central casting'." (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "Abie's Irish Rose": Initially a play dating from the '20s, later a radio series and films.

   "Although initially receiving poor reviews, the Broadway play was 
a commercial hit, running for 2,327 performances between May 23, 
1922, and October 1, 1927, at the time the longest run in Broadway 
theater history . . ." (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "the nervous Cerberus": Used metaphorically in our story.

   "In Greek mythology, Cerberus, often called the 'hound of Hades', is a multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving." (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "Pisco punch": An American invention originating in San Francisco (Wikipedia HERE).
~ "The Poverty Row producer": The bottom of the Hollywood barrel which, remarkably enough, nevertheless produced the occasional gem.

   "Poverty Row was a slang term used in Hollywood from the late 1920s through the mid-1950s to refer to a variety of small (and mostly short-
lived) B movie studios. Although many of them were on (or near) today's Gower Street in Hollywood, the term did not necessarily refer to any 
specific physical location, but was rather a figurative catch-all for low-
budget films produced by these lower-tier studios." (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "a head chancery": If you can't punch, then grab.

   "Also known as 'Neck Wrench', the wrestler faces his opponent 
who is bent over. The attacking wrestler tucks their opponent's 
head underneath his armpit and wraps his arm around the neck 
so that the forearm is pressed against the throat. The wrestler 
then grabs his own wrist with his free hand, crossing it under-
neath the opponent's armpit and chest to lock the hold in, com-
pressing the opponent's neck. The attacking wrestler can then 
arch backwards, pulling the opponent's head forward and thus 
applying extra pressure on the neck." 
(Wikipedia HERE).

~ "LaGuardia Field": There was a time when plane spotting was a favored pastime.

   "The airport was dedicated on October 15, 1939, as the New York 
Municipal Airport, and opened for business on December 2 of that 
year. It cost New York City $23 million to turn the tiny North Beach 
Airport into a 550-acre (220 ha) modern facility. Not every-one was 
as enthusiastic as La Guardia about the project; some regarded it as a 
$40 million boondoggle. But the public was fascinated by the very idea 
of air travel, and thousands traveled to the airport, paid the dime fee, 
and watched the airliners take off and land." (Wikipedia HERE).

~ "a press-agent hoax": Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

   "A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public's 
attention to the event's organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can 
be professionally organized, or set up by amateurs. Such events 
are frequently utilized by advertisers, and by celebrities who notably 
include athletes and politicians." (Wikipedia HERE).

- Our previous encounter with Lawrence Goldtree Blochman's supersleuth Marshall T. Custer is (HERE).


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